Summer of the Dead

Summer of the Dead by Julia Keller

Book: Summer of the Dead by Julia Keller Read Free Book Online
Authors: Julia Keller
thought, picturing the crime-scene photos from Freddie Arnett’s driveway. The shattered skull. The wet bits of brain matter. Freddie’s stringy, old-man’s body, facedown, arms and legs askew. His trousers had hiked up in his sudden awkward fall, and a strip of bare skin showed just above his thin white socks; the strip on each leg was pale and hairless. Somehow that bothered Bell almost as much as did the sight of the smashed brain: that inch of skin above his socks. It was so tender, so intimate. Men like Freddie Arnett never wore shorts. So this was a part of him that only his wife, more than likely, had seen for a long, long time, maybe since he was a little boy, when he took baths on Saturday nights with his brothers, and now here it was for strangers to gawk at. Law enforcement personnel, crime-scene techs—anybody on official business could look at him without his permission. Murder was the ultimate violation, yes, but there were other violations, too, that came in its wake. Smaller, heartbreaking indignities. Such as a strip of skin between a rucked-up trouser cuff and the folded-over top of a ribbed white sock.
    Fogelsong was talking again. “I’m meeting with Deputy Harrison in half an hour to coordinate the investigations. See where we stand. I’ll keep you posted.”
    Bell nodded.
    â€œBy the way,” he said, shifting his position on the couch, signaling a shift in topic, “I heard about your own little adventure. That stabbing you stumbled across in Collier County on Saturday night. Shirley’s okay, I take it.”
    â€œYeah. But she’s out of control, Nick. Won’t listen to me. Goes her own way.”
    â€œShe’ll settle down.”
    â€œYou think so?”
    â€œI do.”
    â€œAnyway,” Bell said, “the homicide in Tommy’s appears to be unrelated to Freddie Arnett’s murder. Killer confessed to Deputy Sturm at the scene. We’re checking on his whereabouts Thursday night—but this one seems tied up nice and neat. No loose ends. Not about who did it, that is. There are a few questions about the victim and a business card he had in his pocket, and I might be looking into that just as soon as I—”
    â€œSturm?” Nick asked, interrupting her. “Mandy Sturm?”
    â€œYeah. Do you know her?”
    â€œNot her,” he said. “Not well, anyway. It’s her husband I know. Virgil Sturm. Good man. Works for the CSX railroad. Or did, before all the layoffs.” Fogelsong dusted off his knee, as if he could somehow get rid of bad news the same quick way. “He’s related to Mary Sue’s family.”
    Bell let a short but decisive length of time go by. “Speaking of Mary Sue—how’d things go in Chicago?”
    The sheriff discovered the cuff button on his right sleeve. He pressed it with his thumb, then twisted it, as if checking to make sure it wouldn’t fall off at an inopportune moment.
    â€œFine,” he said. Voice flat, neutral.
    Bell was disappointed but didn’t show it. His business.
    â€œOne thing.” Nick was speaking again, which surprised her. Usually she was the one forced to break the occasional silences. “I went by to see Clayton Meckling,” he said. “The hospital he’s at—the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago—is right downtown. Real close to the hotel where Mary Sue and I stayed. Spent a couple of afternoons with him.”
    Now Bell was the one who looked around for a bit of busywork in which to indulge. She picked up a yellow pencil, one of several she kept at the ready alongside a short stack of paper on her desktop, and nervously worked the pointy end against the sheet on top. In a few seconds, the paper wasn’t blank anymore.
    â€œHow’s he doing?” Bell asked. She kept her voice casual.
    â€œPretty well. He’s a fighter. Not a surprise, but still good to see. They’re working him hard

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